Constitution review: Lawmakers kick against calls for referendum

Federal lawmakers have dismissed calls by the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) for a referendum as part of the on-going constitution review process, saying that such a process is not tenable.

The planned review of the 1999 constitution by the 7th National Assembly has commenced with the Senate hosting a public hearing and the House of Representatives has planned its own public hearings in all the 360 federal constituencies in the country.

The process has been commended by a number of professional bodies and civil society organisations but the leadership of the NBA has however expressed some reservations about how the process is being conducted.

President of the association, Okey Wali, had recently stated that there is no clear agenda or known methodology in the ongoing amendment process. According to the lawyer, the one day public hearing session to be held simultaneously in the 360 federal constituencies on November 10, as proposed by the House of Representatives, cannot produce anything meaningful to the amendment of the 1999 constitution.

The Senate Majority Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, on Thursday described the NBA’s stance as ‘surprising’ adding that the NBA cannot “disown” the on-going process which it has participated actively in.

Speaking further on the issue, Mr Ndoma-Egba, explained that the constitution has prescribed the mechanism for amendment and that the National Assembly will be sticking to that.

This is a position shared by the House of Representatives, who through its spokesman,  Zakari Mohammed, said the demand for a referendum as part of the constitution process is one option the National Assembly is not interested in.

Mr Mohammed added the House will not subscribe to what he called extra-constitutional means of reviewing the constitution.

The lawmakers say they are determined to ensure that the proposed amendment enjoys national consensus and acceptance. And that it truly becomes a constitution that belongs to the people of Nigeria.

Ex-NBA Vice President remanded in prison for N35million fraud

Justice U. N. Agomoh of the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, on Monday remanded Barrister Emonena Blessing Ukiri, a former Vice President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, in prison custody. 

Barrister Emonena Blessing Ukiri

Barrister Ukiri is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission; EFCC, on charges of fraud, stealing and money laundering to the tune of over N35million.

He is alleged to have converted a N35million judgement sum paid by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to his client, one Samuel Onowighose, by concealing the origin of the fund and using part of it to acquire 150,000 units of First Bank of Nigeria PLC shares and thereby commits an offence punishable under Section 14 (1) (A) of the Money Laundering Act, 2004.

The defendant pleaded not guilty to all the charges, yet counsel to the anti-graft agency, Mrs. Olatunji Ademiju asked the court to fix a date for trial while the defence Counsel, Barrister A. O. Ojekudos moved a motion for bail.

He appealed to the court to allow the accused person to continue to enjoy the administrative bail granted him by the EFCC in 2007.

But the prosecuting counsel objected to the bail application on the grounds that she was only served in court and needed time to study the application.

Before adjourning proceedings, Justice Agomoh maintained that an administrative bail granted in 2007 cannot be used as a basis for seeking bail in a matter filed in 2012.

He then ordered that the accused person be remanded in prison custody, while the case was adjourned to October 18, 2012.

NBA demands document on FG’s decision not appeal Bakassi’s ruling

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has expressed concerns that documents on which the federal government reached the decision not to appeal the Green Tree Agreement on Bakassi was not made public.

Stating that it will never support litigation without good reasons, the President of the NBA, Mr Okechukwu Wali is of the opinion that organizations like the NBA should have been carried along in the committee as the apex body for legal minds in the country.

He claimed the bar is unable to tell the kind of documents which according to the federal government showed that there were no new evidence to appeal the case with the International Court of Justice.

The NBA president also added that the association will monitor the spending of the N17 billion relief money provided by the federal government in a bid to keep managers of the fund accountable and also prevent bureaucratic bottle necks.

The NBA also condemned the killing of Nigerian students in Mubi and Aluu communities saying that its shows a total failure of the nation’s security system.

Mr Wali also joined the calls for the creation of state police, saying the need to seriously consider the creation of state police is now, adding that the state police will drastically reduce the rising crime rate in the country.

It urged government at the various levels to ensure that the criminals are brought to book.

Nigeria has civilian not democratic government – Robert Clarke

A legal practitioner and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Robert Clarke on Tuesday said though the country has experienced significant development since  it gained independence from colonial rule, there is still lack of local government presence in most areas.

The 74-year-old lawyer, who joined Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily via the telephone, said the absence of the local government presence is due to “complete corruption”.

“We need to strengthen every area of governance so that all necessary things can be done to ensure that it is not a civilian government we have but a democratic government,” he said.

“There is the general believe that the representatives we have in Abuja are not elected representatives of the people and that the forms of conducting elections still allows many, many people who should not be in Abuja to be in Abuja.

“And the representative finds out that he doesn’t owe allegiance to the people and the people do not trust him. The problem we have is to strengthen the electoral process so that the people would believe, not only believe, but that they know that they have an influence on their representatives,” Mr Clarke said.

Lawyer says Nigeria’s electoral system has improved

A legal practitioner and the pioneer Chairman, Business section of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), George Etomi on Tuesday said that there are several improvements to make Nigerians celebrate the 52 years Independence from colonial power.

Speaking as a guest on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, Mr Etomi said the one significant area that has experienced improvement is the electoral process.

“The person at the helm of affairs matters a lot. If you have a president or a governor who decides that the electioneering system does not matter, then people would burn, loot, and generally cause mayhem. But if you have a president such as we have, who is not prepared to stick out his neck for anybody but ensures that the system works, then you will have results,” he said.

Watch the video below for the complete interview.

CBN suspends introduction of N5000 note

Reeling from a barrage of public anger, disagreement and threats, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has buckled under pressure and suspended the planned introduction of the N5000 note following a directive from the presidency.

Illustartion of the planned N5000 with leading female activists.

This is coming after the presidency through the Special Adviser to the president on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati, on Thursday declared that President Goodluck Jonathan has ordered that the planned introduction of N5,000 be put on hold.

The Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) had also on Thursday, called for the immediate sack of the governor of the CBN, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi over the planned introduction.

Announcing the change in policy, a statement by the director of corporate communications of the apex bank, Mr Ugochukwu Okoroafor however explained that “it is indeed within the powers of the bank to print new currencies as provided in Section 19(1) of the CBN Act 2007.”

The statement further explained that “It also provides that such introduction of the Naira denominations shall be approved by the president upon recommendation of the board.”

“In line with this provision, the CBN had  proposed and obtained the approval of the President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to embark on the currency restructuring exercise, codenamed ‘Project Cure’ on December 19, 2011”

“The CBN hereby informs the general public that the president, on Thursday, September 20, 2012, directed that further action on the approved restructuring exercise be stopped.”

“In full compliance with the provisions of the law, the CBN hereby announces that further action on the said restructuring exercise has been stopped, until such a time Mr. President may direct otherwise” the statement read.

It also emphasized that no contract has been awarded by the CBN in connection with the printing and minting of the new currency notes and coins.

“Consequently, no currency note or coin has been printed or minted under the proposed exercise”, the statement added.

And confirming this directive, the president’s spokesman Dr. Reuben Abati stated that the decision to suspend the exercise is to enable the central bank to embark on more enlightenment campaigns.

N5000 note: NBA calls for the dismissal of CBN governor

The Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) has called for the immediate sack of the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi over the planned introduction of the N5,000 note.

NBA’s president, Mr Okey Wali at a meeting with some legal luminaries in Abuja on Thursday, said the introduction of the N5,000 note should not be imposed on Nigerians.

According to Mr Wali, for every criticism of the CBN’s policy, what Nigerians get are insults and name-calling, he therefore demanded that if Mr Sansui can not listen to the wishes and demands of Nigeria, the CBN boss should be fired.

He also threatened that the lawyers association will go to court if the federal government goes ahead with the plan.

The lawyers’ meeting was called to deliberate on how to develop the bar association while appraising its performance with a view to identify lapses and suggest ways of reforming the legal profession.

The leadership of the NBA kicked against the plan  to introduce N5,000 note and other national issues which it identified as been clogs in the wheel of the nations development.

While some of the legal practitioners argued that the introduction of the currency will increase inflation in the country, others called on the government not to embark on policies that will harm the nation’s economy.

The summit for the senior lawyers which is the first to be organized by the NBA is aimed at bringing members of bar together to brainstorm on ways of addressing issues of professional ethics, strategic planning and development of the legal profession.

States that want own police should have them – Joseph Dauda

The outgoing President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Joseph Dauda on Wednesday said that States in Nigeria that want and can maintain their own police force should be allowed to have it.

Mr Dauda, who was speaking as a guest on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, said it is not compulsory for all the states in Nigeria to have their own police.

“States that need them, that have viable economic actives, large states like Lagos, Rivers and those other states that really need machinery to ensure that their investment and people are protected should have it,” he said.

I will be Nigeria’s most praised leader – Jonathan

President Goodluck Jonathan has told the opposition and all the people that criticise his administration for non-performance, saying that he will be the most praised president of the country at the end of his tenure in office.

President Goodluck Jonathan (L) with the outgoing NBA president, Joseph Daudu (R)

Mr Jonathan said this while speaking at the opening of the 52nd annual general conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) holding in the Federal Capital Territory on Monday.

The president wondered why the first 12 months of his administration has been awashed with criticisms over problems and challenges that he did not create, and reiterated his resolve to transform the country.

He pointed at the reforms taking place in the power sector, and other infrastructure, reminding the critics that transformation does not come with a wave of the hand.

The theme for this year’s NBA’s conference is “Nigeria as Emerging Market: Redefining our law’s and politics for growth”.

Emerging after 50 years

Matthew Kukah delivered the keynote address on Nigeria as an emerging democracy at the NBA conference.

The clergy in his speech wondered why after 50 years of independence, Nigerians are still talking about the emergence of the nation.

He said that things are not walking because Nigerians have refused to understand where they are coming from and he called on all Nigerians to overcome ethnic colouration in all they do.

The outgoing president of the NBA, Joseph Daudu decried the state of the nation especially insecurity in the land and the NBA’s position on the call for state police.

There was a mild protest at the entrance of the International Conference Center, venue for the 52nd lawyers’ conference, by lawyers, who could not gain entry into the venue.

The lawyers protested what they called the high fees charged by the authorities of the NBA leadership.


Minister urges council of legal education to produce new generation lawyers

Mohammed-Bello-AdokeThe Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Bello Adoke on Monday called for the reform of the judiciary to start at the legal education level.

Speaking at the inauguration of the Council of legal education, Mr Adoke said that if these fundamental reforms are not implemented in earnest, the legal profession may continue to suffer serious decline and loss its pride of place in the affairs of the country.

The Minister urged members of the Council to ensure that the necessary restructuring and organization of the legal education sector is put in place. He said the vision of the Council should be to promote the Nigeria legal system until it is at par with the international standard.

“We must produce lawyers capable of providing manpower needs of the country in the emerging fields of law and technology,” Mr Adoke said.

He said that the Council should brace itself to be able to train lawyers on E-commerce, cybercrime, biotechnology and space law.

“Our lawyers must also be equipped to prosecute complex international crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, organised crimes such as human trafficking and child labour,” the attorney general said.

The need to reform the legal education was also of concern to both the Director General of the Nigeria law school, Tahiru Manmman and the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Joseph Daudu.

Both Misters Manmman and Daudu agreed that the laws guiding the legal education in Nigeria need to be updated to reflect the demands of the time.

“Law itself is very archaic and a lot of things there are obstructions to good governance and good administration both in the council and in the Nigeria Law School; so some of the provisions of the law need to be looked at,” Mr Manmman said.

“The NBA sent three bills to the Senate and not with a mind-set but with a foresight that changes are needed and changes are necessary to bring up the quality of legal education in this country,” Mr Dauda said.

The council has a mandate to ensure quality legal education in tertiary institutions and the Chairman of the Council, Onueze Okocha promised that the Council will do its best to achieve its objectives.

Mr Okocha called for the amend mention of the laws governing the council.

“The short preliminary discussion that I’ve had with the Director General of the Law School, I pointed out to him that there were few areas we needed to consult with the Honourable Attorney General and Minister of Justice to see if the law can be fine-tuned,” he said.

The reason for the fine-tuning according to Mr Okocha will be to address “some areas that are still hazy, some questions that are still doubtful from the provisions of the status are properly clarified.”

The Council of legal education is a statutory body charged with the responsibility of ensuring standards in the teaching and learning of legal education.

Van Persie puts contract talks with Arsenal on hold

Arsenal captain Robin van Persie has put talks over a new contract on hold until the end of the season so he can concentrate on playing and not personal matters, the Dutch international striker said.

Van Persie, the top scorer in the Premier League this season with 22 goals, has been linked with a move away from Arsenal after eight years. His current deal expires next year.

In his column in the matchday programme ahead of Sunday’s North London derby with Tottenham Hotspur, Van Persie said discussions over a new contract will not start before the end of the season as he only wants to focus on playing.

“There have been a lot of stories, generally contradictory ones, about my contract situation recently so I’d like to make it clear,” he wrote.

“There’s nothing complicated or sinister – the club and I have both agreed to speak at the end of the season and see how things stand. The boss (Arsene Wenger), (chief executive) Ivan Gazidis and I are all comfortable with it.

“I need all my focus to be on football – on captaining this team, improving every day, doing extra work on the training pitch and preparing for the very busy schedule of fixtures we have.

“If I look down the list, there’s not much time to sit down and think about anything else! “For me, this is a time to play football and not speak about personal things. All of my energy needs to go on getting this team where we want it to be this season.”

Arsenal have endured an erratic season, but Van Persie has been the one constant success, with 28 goals in all competitions before Sunday’s match.

After facing Spurs, Arsenal are at Liverpool next Saturday before AC Milan visit the Emirates in the second leg of their Champions League last 16 tie, when the Londoners will attempt the near impossible task of overturning their 4-0 deficit from the first leg.

Having been knocked out of the FA Cup and League Cup, out of contention for the league title and unlikely to progress in the Champions League, Arsenal are heading for a seventh straight season without a trophy.